The UK is on target to exceed the legal limits for four out of the five pollutants covered by the National Emissions Ceilings Regulations 2018, according to new data.
The regulations set binding emission reduction targets for harmful pollutants for both 2020 and 2030.
Environmental charity, ClientEarth, says the information provided by the Government is set to miss its 2030 emissions reductions targets by 57% for sulphur dioxide (SO2), 45% for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), 20% for ammonia and 20% for nitrogen oxide.
The figures also suggest the UK has missed its 2020 emissions reductions targets by 12% for PM2.5 and 7% for ammonia, although final emissions data for 2020 will be reduced in 2022.
The new law requires the Government renews its strategy for tackling these pollutants within 18 months. Failing to do so, government could face legal challenges.
Katie Nield, lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “Once again, the Government is falling short of its legal obligations to reduce pollution.
“Ministers have been lauding the UK’s Clean Air Strategy as ‘world-leading’ but they are not living up to it.
“Now the Government is under a legal obligation to revamp its strategy to tackle major emissions sources like road transport but also agriculture and domestic heating – people’s health is on the line.
“They are so far off track that a serious rethink is needed. The Government should not have to be dragged to the courts yet again to force it to live up to legal commitments to clean up the air.”
Following the ruling, Nield called for the Government to work with local leaders to put clean air zones (CAZs) in place as these are “the most effective solution” to tackling NO2 pollution quickly.
A number of cities put their CAZ plans on hold last year while they assessed the impact of the drop in traffic caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but Bath launched its CAZ on March 15, with Birmingham to launch in June, Bristol in October and Bradford to follow.
CAZs require drivers of all older, non-compliant vehicles to pay a daily fee to enter the zone.
Local authorities across England have also been granted more than £5 million in government funding to deliver innovative projects to improve air quality.
The money, from the Government’s Air Quality Grant, helps councils develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses and communities and reduce the impact of dirty air on people’s health. More than double the funding awarded in 2020 has been made available for this year’s grant.